5 lessons on grant writing for postdocs

In June, we wrapped up a series of workshops on Grant Writing, led by Dr. Lisa Nielsen from Purdue University. Before Dr. Nielsen became the Director of the Postdoc Office at Purdue, she was an experienced grant writer and was able to deliver training for grant writing specifically designed for postdocs. 

Here are 5 lessons from the Grant Writing for Postdocs workshops

  1. Start early!  Even if you have written successful grant proposals before, you have to do more than just write the narrative. There are collaborators to get on board, letters of support to gather, and a budget to prepare, all of which involves more than just the grant writer. Give yourself at least 6 months from the time you decide to apply for the grant until the due date. 
  2. It’s okay to start with the summaryI always felt like it was cheating to start with the summary – as if you didn’t really know where you are going until you have written the full narrative first and pull elements from it to write the summary or abstract. This is silly. If it’s easier to write the summary first, then do that. Whatever makes the most sense to you is what you should do.
  3. Contact the program officerThe better grant readers know you and know what you are trying to do, the better your chances are of getting the grant. If you have questions about the process of if your research is a good fit for their solicitation, contact the grantor by email. Don’t call. Include a polished paragraph summary of your proposal idea or short  project summary so they can answer your question accurately
  4. Don’t write your grant like you would a journal article. When writing a grant, identify a clear need and clearly state what you will do to satisfy that need and how you will do it. Be persuasive!
  5. Letters of Support are NOT letters of recommendationLetters of support should not just state that doing the research is a good idea, they are meant to convey what the collaborator will provide, such as insights to the project design, data interpretation, access to equipment, training for the applicant, etc. 

If you missed one or more of the workshops the recordings and slides are available. Please send an email to wiley.larsen@asu.edu for access.